Ownership of Me?

I've been going through some internal emotional-work (family-of-origin type of stuff) lately, and it's got me asking myself this question: have I unwittingly given ownership of myself to other people? Do I continue to do so? And is that my obligation, as a Christian and as a sympathetic human being?

The answer to the first two questions is 'yes.' I don't know that I ever did it purposefully, and I'm certain it's not always bad. As "family," we belong to one-another, don't we? At least, within healthy moderation. As a spiritual "body," aren't we united? Shouldn't there be some mutual obligation in community?

I'm just not sure what "healthy" looks like.

I'll certainly take responsibility for giving a certain ownership of myself to my wife. That is an ongoing, conscious choice. And even that can mean different things - I don't mean it in some creepy fundamentalist way. I believe in separate personal identities, even in marriage. But there is a personal surrender of ego-driven self-sufficiency and survivalism that can be really beautiful (again, I'm aware there are perverted, co-dependent or abusive manifestations of all this, but that's not my focus here...) and very freeing.

But I've got a real problem with feeling emotionally obligated to the people who love me. I think that because they're emotionally reliant on me in some way, I think that means I have to work tirelessly to validate and care for those individuals - even when their needs and emotions may be destructive to me. In fact, the expectations I place on myself intensify my own feelings of betrayal and outrage when others don't choose to live the same way.

I'm no saint. I know this. I've been a lousy friend, and I've been a lousy family member. But even when I have managed to create necessary boundaries, limits or distance in the hopes of getting healthier, I find myself continually (chronically) obsessing over the effect of my decisions on those other people. Guilt. Inevitably, shame.

And I think a barely-conscious part of me, I'm embarrassed to admit, thinks I'm a better person for obsessing in these ways. If I felt truly FREE... well, then I'd be a real asshole. So I keep caring, keep obsessing, and keep validating what a good and sympathetic person I am. And the anxiety builds up in my chest and the ulcer burns in my gut and I'm not much good to myself or anyone else.

I don't use this blog to "journal" much in traditional ways, but I think that's what this is... I'll try to think of something interesting soon...

9 comments:

Broken follower... said...

Peter,
Sometimes I feel like we go through the same struggles at the same time... I'm glad you did a little "personal journaling". It helps me not feel alone...

I've realized that I have people in my life that call me their best friend or "really need me" or love me, and I feel like I have to tend to all of the relationships, to an exhausting extent. It puts such a burden on my shoulders though. I feel weighed down. So I've taken a step back, re-evaluated some things...

The thing is, while I'm not killing myself anymore trying to be there for EVERYONE, I start to kill myself for not being there as well... I feel terrible because I CAN'T be there for everyone... I am trying to find a balance. I'm trying to choose the relationships that are healthy with boundaries, and trying to be there for the others, but not necessarily being at their beckon call.. Also, when I can, I ask some others to maybe "step-in" if you will...

Good luck with this, and let me know if you find any healthy boundaries. :)

Sue said...

Hey, Peter,

First of all thanks for trusting us with a peek at what's going on inside of you right now. It's obvious that you really do care deeply for people, and that's a very awesome thing.

Something you might find helpful is a piece of wisdom I was given when I was a mom of two very small children: Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First.

You might want to check out this: Go to Google Books and search for Screamfree Parenting. The entire book is available there. Once you have the book up click on "contents" and go to chapter 11, "Put on Your Own Oxygen Mask First," and read about the four levels of love, adapted from Saint Bernard of Clairvoix (sp?) Then breathe. :-)

Peter said...

Thank you, both of you, for the kind words. Sue, I appreciate the recommendation - I will check it out!

Trying to breathe now...

David said...

Thank you for your honest and vulnerable disclosure, Peter. You were real and authentic, something that is far more attractive than "having it all together."

Blessings...

David

Brent said...

Peter,

YOU have touch me with YOU more than any of your doctrine has. That is something I am grateful for, thanks:)

Brent said...

ed. sorry miss those all the time:p

Peter said...

Heh. Thanks Brent and David ;)

Existential Punk said...

Peter,

Don't ever feel overly obligated to me. i LOVE you in good and bad times, humanity, shit and ALL!

A

Peter said...

Adele, you're sweet. I never have ;) I appreciate you much!

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